Sexuality and Intimacy

Living with lupus can affect how you feel about sex and your own sexuality. You might be concerned that your sex drive has decreased or that your relationship with your partner has changed. Some of the reasons you might feel this way are due to:

  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Effects of medications
  • Feeling less attractive (because of rashes, hair loss, or weight gain)
  • Mouth and genital sores, vaginal dryness, yeast infections
  • Raynaud's phenomenon (when fingers and toes turn blue and hurt in the cold).

Feel Good About Yourself and About Sex

If you don't feel good about how you look or if it hurts too much to have sex, then it is time to talk with your doctor.

These are real feelings that affect your well being and health care providers are familiar with them. It might be possible to change your medication or exercise routine, or to learn new ways to be sexual and how to feel good about yourself.

It is also important to talk with your partner. Explain that sex might not always feel good to you or that you don't feel attractive. Find out what your partner is thinking and feeling too. Let your partner know what feels good.

If you can't solve this problem together, talk with your doctor or another health professional.

Ways to Take Care of Yourself

  • Keep a healthy and positive attitude about yourself.
  • Find ways to enjoy your body - take a bubble bath, use pretty sheets, or wear comfortable clothes.
  • Tell your doctor if your sex drive changes after you begin taking a new medication.
  • Ask your doctor if he or she can prescribe a pain medication to take before you have sex.
  • Stay well-rested. Take a nap before sexual activity.
  • Take a warm shower or bath before having sex - it can relax you and ease some pain.
  • Ask your doctor for medication if you have a yeast infection.

Learn about more comfortable ways to have sex and other pleasurable ways to be intimate (see resources on the other side of this page).

Pregnancy and Lupus

Today, most women with lupus can safely be pregnant. With good planning and health care, you will have fewer risks and can have a healthy baby.

Miscarriage and early delivery are more common for women with lupus than other women. About 1 out of every 4 pregnancies of women with lupus end in miscarriage or stillbirth, and another 25% result in premature birth. A small percentage of babies born to mothers with lupus may have neonatal lupus, which usually goes away permanently after 3 to 6 months, or a heart condition that can be treated.

Because of these issues, your pregnancy needs to be thought of as "high risk," and your obstetrician should be experienced in high-risk pregnancies. You should also plan your delivery at a hospital that can care for high-risk patients.

Pregnant women might face lupus flares, though pregnancy generally doesn't cause flares. Flares are usually mild and can be treated. Hypertension caused by pregnancy is another complication. This is a sudden increase in blood pressure, protein in the urine, or both. It needs to be treated right away, usually including delivering the baby.

The answer to the question "Will my baby be okay?" is usually "Yes." There are things you can do to help keep you and your baby healthy - see the right-hand column on this page

"Thanks to research and careful treatment, more women with lupus can have successful pregnancies."

Keeping You and Your Baby Healthy

  • Carefully plan when you will get pregnant - lupus should be under control before you conceive.
  • Keep all appointments with your obstetrician, your primary care doctor, and your rheumatologist.
  • Talk with your doctor right away about any problems or changes in the way you feel.
  • Consider how you can get help at home while you're pregnant and after your baby is born. Motherhood can be overwhelming and tiring.
  • Talk with your doctor about breastfeeding your baby, and about birth control options after your baby's birth.
  • Do all the things you normally do to stay healthy.

This information is provided by the Bureau of Environmental Health within the Department of Public Health.